What’s in store for Havelock North in the year ahead?

Most sweeping in its implications will be a new ‘Village Framework’ to be formally codified in the Hastings District plan. Once adopted, the Framework will establish the future growth parameters for the urban ‘Village’ part of Havelock North – what kind of activities (retail, light industry, etc) can be located where, and what building requirements must be met.

Submissions were heard on the proposed Framework in December, and HDC’s plan change should be finalized by mid-year.

Of course adopting a plan change is one thing, but the course and quality of actual future development will depend on myriad individual decisions over the coming years by property owners and developers.

Of interest to Havelock food shoppers, as anticipated in the plan, the existing New World will remain in place (not move to former Nimon’s site). Progressive Enterprises (Countdown) has proposed a new supermarket in the Donnelly Street area. The current plan does not include this, but a hearing on it is planned for February.

Foodies of a different sort can look forward to the opening of McDonald’s at the Havelock Road entry into the Village.

A Village Piazza?

One area of special interest might be the central fountain area behind the Visitor Centre. Some aspire to close the small lane in front of Jackson’s, allowing more of a ‘Village Piazza’ effect to be created. This area would ultimately be bounded on the opposite side by a new complex planned by Mackersey Development at the present Happy Tav location. Not everyone agrees with the Piazza concept, especially business owners who might be affected by any street closure.

Plans are afoot to install more community tables in the plaza, which will increase opportunities to hold events there. The Havelock North Business Association is eager to see more community and commercially-sponsored events occur in the plaza, as well as in the Havelock North Domain, where work is also planned. Recent events have included fitness programs and arts exhibitions.

HNBA’s Adrienne Pierce says the group is working hard to ensure these assets of the Village are enhanced. Wayne Bradshaw would like to see more public green space and a “public heart” in the CBD.

Whatever its future, the plaza area is presently nameless. Isn’t such an important centrepiece for Havelock North deserving of one?

Another key development might be establishment of more commercial retail space on the property owned by St Columba’s Church, opposite E’s Café.

And with New World’s staying in place, a big question is what will become of the former Nimon’s site, which is dedicated to light industry. Adrienne Pierce dreams of a ‘white collar’ business park, populated by tech-oriented and service firms. She notes that Unison Fibre will be installing ultra-fast broadband throughout the Village centre area in the first quarter of the year, making it possible for such businesses to readily service customers far beyond Hawke’s Bay.

What’s to worry about?

The traditional bugaboos alarming Havelock North have involved parking, vandalism and that elusive concept, ‘Village character’.

The decibel level surrounding parking issues – and particularly, paid parking – has diminished significantly. BayBuzz cannot detect any unhappiness about the fact that parking meters haven’t made it to Havelock North! And the latest parking studies maintain that the Village has “more than sufficient” car parking at present.

On the other hand, weekend drunkenness in the Village, coupled with vandalism, remains a concern. The recent episode where storefront windows of nine shops were deeply scratched has turned up retailers’ temperatures. And now vandals armed with ladders and booze have taken to the rooftops in the Village centre, damaging heating and cooling equipment and other fixtures.

It seems that although HDC and the Police can invest in video surveillance, lighting and personnel on the street, none of that can compensate for Havelock North parents tolerating – even abetting in the case of booze – destructive behaviour on the part of their offspring.

And finally, there’s the issue of protecting the ‘Village character’. That’s a tough one to pin down. In the debate over McDonald’s coming to the Village, numerous writers to BayBuzz claimed the whole concept was bogus … Havelock North had long ago lost any special character it had. Certainly if that notion entailed any distinctive and noteworthy architectural style or ambiance.

But others see it differently, and often their notion of the ‘proper’ ambiance revolves around scale … as in small scale. No ‘big chains’ or ‘big boxes’ (whether fast food or national retailers). On-site owner-operators of businesses. Easy access and walkability to and around the Village centre. And the very compactness of the Village. Somehow, ‘village’ does seem to capture an appealing quality.

And at least for now, the Village seems in no jeopardy in 2012.

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